Your tea towel is absolutely disgusting and could give you food poisoning

Desiree Burns
June 12, 2018

All of the bugs can cause food poisoning, with E.coli most likely to cause tummy pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea.

Multiple use increases the chance of cross-contamination of potential pathogens that can spread bacteria and lead to food poisoning.

The humble kitchen towels used for multi-purpose tasks can put your households at potential risk of bacteria that cause food poisoning, say researchers.

In addition, towels used for multiple purposes - including wiping utensils, drying hands and wiping surfaces - grew more bacteria than towels used for a single objective, the researchers found.

Of the 49 samples that were infested with bacteria, 37 percent had Escherichia coli (E. coli), 37 percent had Enterococcus, and 14 percent were infected with Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).

Hence, the government suggest households to wash or change the towels, dish cloths, oven gloves as well as sponges on a regular basis and let them dry out completely before using again.

S. aureus was isolated at a higher rate from families of lower socio-economic status and those with children.

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"The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen", said Dr Biranjia-Hurdoyal.

Tea towels that aren't washed regularly or left to dry between uses carry nasty bugs like E.coli and staph bacteria.

"In this study, we investigated the potential role of kitchen towels in cross-contamination in the kitchen and various factors affecting the microbial profile and a load of kitchen towels", said Susheela D. Biranjia-Hurdoyal who is also the Senior Lecturer for the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Mauritius. The study found that 49 percent of the towels tested positive for bacteria and that the amount of bacteria was higher for towels used by large families or families with children, compared with towels used by smaller families or families without children.

For the study, researchers handed out 100 fresh kitchen towels to people and sent them home to use the rags for a one-month study period.

Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. "There's just a wider range of sources of possible bacteria in the kitchen". Hygiene maintenance is vital for families that have more members or have children and elderly she said.

Chapman recommended frequently washing and drying kitchen towels to prevent bacterial growth. But just how often do you need to swap them out?

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